One of our three new found stars, Gurinder Singh, isn’t really a conventional athlete by any stretch of the imagination having to combine full-time work, along with martial arts training and undertaking various cycle tours across Europe. His latest venture took him around parts of the UK and Europe and here is his story (and there is more to follow…!)
Cycling Europe Part One
It was the end of May 2017. I spent most of the last month planning the next 2 weeks of my life. This meant I was not working and cash was at a all time low. After planning all of the routes, purchasing the maps, getting together my nutrition and booking the hostels and ferrys I only had 400 Euros spare. That was all I had for the next 2 weeks of my life. 400 Euros to cover the cycle trip through England, Netherlands, Belgium and North France. This will be interesting.
My journey officially started in Oxford and from there I will ride through Oxfordshire into central London. Then I will ride through Essex into Colchester and then get the ferry from Harwich to Hook of Holland.
I managed to board the train to Oxford with my bike. This alone took hours as there was a initial mix up with my tickets. I did not take no for a answer, Im not having this on day one. I forced myself on-board and took a uncomfortable journey to Oxford. It rained most of the day so I spent the day at the YHA hostel in Oxford. I have passed through here a few times. There’s all sorts of travellers that pass through, such as students, academics, business people and many cyclers. In the evening I sat in the main lounge and listened in on the tourists stories. The American students made me chuckle. It was non stop talking about anything and everything. And even during there break they all spoke on their phones.
After breakfast the next morning I double checked my rations, equipment, bike set up and then set off. Day 2 was the first real day I pedalled away. The journey begins, would it be a dream, or would I live to regret this trip.. only time would tell.
I learned early on in my training to have basic and emergency nutrition supplies, is important because the volume of calories one burns cycling all day is massive. And where possible I planned each days nutrition based on how much I would cycle, as well as my bodies repair needs.
The day was mostly perfect, 30 degrees heat and sun shine all day. I cycled well on the lush canal paths of Oxford and then onto open country roads through South Oxfordshire. To keep me company I cycled alongside rowing teams, runners and other tourists. Prior to the trip I managed to get FAB LAB Coventry to make me a traveling music blaster. This was a heavy weighted accessary, but the music turned many heads in pure amazement. Well its not everyday that you see some one cycling with a stereo listening to Duran Duran or Kenny Logins greatest hits!
I arrived in south Oxfordshire by 2pm. I had planned to spend the evening at a posh country hotel that I was lucky enough to get cheap. Although I was slightly tired (riding a hybrid bike not built for touring), I was full of emotion. The day had gone perfect. Could it really be this easy? So much emotion that I celebrated with my hands in the air as I arrived at the hotel reception entrance (listening to Winner takes it All by Sammy Hagar). I completed my first day cycling and I wanted to embrace every moment of this euphoric feeling with the sun shining down on me and my dreams set into motion. However to my embarrassment behind me there was a business conference being concluded in the hotel garden. Im sure I again turned many heads, but this time for the wrong reasons!
The next day I planned to complete some rescue training. This was pre planned many months in advance so I scheduled it into my travel plans. By the end of the training it was 5.30pm. I still had 50 miles to cycle into Central London. Right time to turn on the music and pedal. The clouds were grey and I was fearful of rain, however the main issue I was having was the rear derailleur on my bike kept snapping out and the chain flying off the bike gears. I had realised now for sure the bike Trek FX2 was just not built for the miles I wanted to cycle and the weight of the supplies I was carrying. But I had no choice and defiantly no cash to bye a new bike. I have to make do and push forward.
It was about 9pm and I was on the outside of London. I had ridden these canal paths before. They were horrible! Lets put it this way they weren’t going to do any favours to my health or my bikes welfare! Soon after the day light was almost gone and I was officially very tired! At times I almost fell into the canals. But at the same time I knew the slower I cycled the less sleep I would get later that night. It was my own fault trying to squeeze in training and cycling. The night did not get any better, in fact it got a lot worse. So I turned off the canal paths from hell and decided to take a detour to save some time. This lead me on the long central roads from East London leading into Central London. I remember passing a security guard of a private business complex. He looked at me and warned me of the dangers of cycling through East London Suburbs at night. I told him its ok, I’ve turned the music off. I don’t think he was amused, but he wished me luck none the less. He was right… and I stood out like a sore thumb! But I knew as long as I pedal I’m faster than anyone chasing me!
Some where into East London outside a recycling centre I heard a massive BANG! What the hell was that.. then suddenly I could not pedal my bike. I looked at the rear of the bike. A bungee cord had flown off the stereo and had wrapped itself around the back wheel and gears. Wonderful, I spent the next 30 minutes in the dark, with the pleasant industrial fumes of the recycling centre to keep me awake. In addition the theme tune to Back to the Future was on loop from the Stereo due to the sudden shunt. If only the Doc was here to help!
By the time I managed to fix the bike and get to the hostel in Central London it was 2AM . I was tired, no sorry correction I was exhausted!! The front staff did not help. They took 20 minutes signing me in for no clear reason and then tried to sell me out of date sandwiches. Great now I was hacked off and exhausted!! Still I went through my rehearsed routine.. check bike, secure all belongings, check in, go through plans and maps for tomorrow, recharge all electrical equipment, drink lots of water, make myself food and drink my recovery shakes. I still remember this evening like it was yesterday, because of how I tired I was, but I knew the routine and discipline was important.
On a cycle tour there is time for fun and games, but routines, and preparation are important. And most the time you only have yourself to rely on, you are your own commander and chief. This helps minimise risks and helps plan out exit strategies when the day does not go as planned.
Thank god, the day was over… 2.30am. I crawl into my room. As I enter I notice its about 35 degrees and am welcomed by a unusual guy who watched me sleep and complained all night to others about his friends? In addition to this half of my bedding is missing. GREAT! Good night… 🙂
Part Two to Follow.